Yesterday, our pug Maximus underwent his last radiation treatment targeting the tumor in his mouth.  Unlike humans, dogs can only undergo a set number of treatments.  Any more, I was informed, and they risk damaging the surrounding healthy cells.  Don’t know why this same logic doesn’t apply to human beings but all this to say Thursday was Max’s fifth and final procedure.

He was his usual easy-going self going in, proceeding at a leisurely pace up the stairs, briefly acknowledging the other dogs and cooing owners before settling in for the short wait – parking himself under the seats to presumably make it harder for us to corral him.  Unlike my other dogs who will bolt at the sight of a white coat (I suppose you can include me in that group), Maximus is fairly resigned to the realities of vet/hospital visits.  Aside from some pre-separation anxiety – manifested by uncontrollable trembling – he seems fairly unconcerned going in.

We received some promising news after the first treatment.  Apparently, the tumor had shrunk a little.  On the other hand, one of his lymph nodes was swollen and an aspiration suggested suspicious cellular activity.  In a subsequent treatment, the lymph node shrunk back considerably, suggesting that particular melanoma had responded to the radiation.  Unfortunately, there was no further movement on the tumor which stubbornly refused to shrink any further.

In addition to his radiation treatment, Maximus is receiving an “anti-cancer vaccine” every second week.  Its purpose is to jump start the immune system in the hope it will battle the cancer.  While it’s shown promising results, these results have been very limited (to what, if I remember correctly, was a less than 25 % success rate).  According to the radiation oncologist, while the radiation should see immediate results, the anti-cancer vaccine positive influence – if effective – won’t manifest itself until months down the line.

Maximus has always been very relaxed – even more so since his diagnosis.  He sleeps a lot more, walks a lot slower, and his appetite isn’t what it used to be.  Not sure if this is the result of the disease, the treatment, or the drugs he’s taking.  Interestingly, he’s at his most energetic immediately following the radiation treatment.  When we return to the small animal hospital to pick him up, he is thrilled to see us – tail wagging, barking, staggering about comically as the anesthesia works through his system.

Also, when he gets back home, he’s at his very hungriest, eating anything we put down in front of him.  This is in stark contrast to his typical disposition to meal time.  He’s grown incredibly fickle, to the point where we will prepare three or four different things for him in the hopes that one will strike his fancy.  One day, he may want simmered chicken breast, another he may prefer beef.  One morning, dog food will be fine while, that night, he may not want anything but mashed banana with a dollop of yogurt.  Ultimately, as long as he’s eating, that’s the important thing.  Over the past month, he’s been maintaining his svelte 22 pound physique.

I’m noticing that, on the home front, the other dogs are showing Maximus a little more – as crazy as it sounds – kindness: waiting for him to catch up on walks, snuggling up beside him at bedtime.  Jelly seems particularly affected by Maximus’s weekly absences, crying when he leaves and then greeting him on his return with an enthusiasm usually reserved for me.  And meal time.

The plan is to bring Maximus back for his anti-cancer vaccine in two weeks.  At that time, they’ll do one final measurement of the tumor to see if these treatments have seen any positive results.  And then, it’ll be back to Vancouver for some much-needed R&R (and here I refer to both Maximus and me).  I’m hoping the flight back with these guys will go even smoother.  I ended up making two trips to transport all four dogs back in March.  Back then, Maximus was so quiet during the flight that I had to keep poking him to make sure he was alright.  Bubba and Lulu were pretty good as well, saving up their howls for the baggage claim.  Only Jelly was a problem, whimpering through most of the 5 hour flight.  I won’t be taking the red-eye this time.

I’m hoping to get them back before there’s any movement on the recent Canadian Medical Association call for a ban on pets flying in cabin.  The doctors argue that pets can cause sniffling, sneezing and, in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock in people with severe allergies.  Of course, I’d argue the same could be said for perfume, nuts, and various other potential allergens.  According to the article in the Toronto Star, the doctors “said there would be no problem with transporting pets in a pressurized cargo hold” – which goes to show they may know something about allergies but know nothing about transporting dogs in cargo – especially short-snouted dogs like mine that are more likely to die in those less-than-cozy compartments: Short-snouted dogs most likely to die on planes – Travel – Travel Tips …  Just ran into a guy today who drove up from Houston with his two boston terriers.  He made the mistake of transporting them cargo once.  When he went to pick them up, he discovered the water in their dog bowls had frozen solid during the flight!

So what’s the answer?  What sort of compromise can be reached that will leave everyone happy? And make the airlines a lot of money in the process?  How about pet-friendly flights?  Actually charge animals for seats.  I think they’d be pleasantly surprised by how many pet owners would fork over the cash to ensure their furry companions fly comfortably – and safely.

Above – a zen moment for Maximus in the garden outside the animal clinic.

Maximus has also been a lot needier of late, seemingly suffering separation anxiety whenever I leave him in the car.  Akemi snapped the above pic when I popped out to pick up corn from a local farmer’s market.  Apparently, he cried until I returned.

Sadly, the radiation treatments yielded no positive results.  After the initial shrinkage, the tumor returned to its original size, suggesting a very aggressive melanoma.  The doctor said the best hope now is that the anti-cancer vaccine works its magic and jump-starts his immune system.  Other than that, she simply advised me to enjoy his company.

For now, Maximus seems in pretty good spirits.  A little tired but generally happy.  He may be a picky eater, but he’s still finishing his meals and that’s a good sign.

Here’s hoping the move back to familiar territory helps!

41 thoughts on “September 9, 2011: Maximus’s last radioactive road trip!

  1. Aw crap, that’s unhappy news about the radiation. I sure hope the vaccine works, all things told. *go, science, go!*

    I have to admit I’ve never been so tempted to reach out and scratch the little guy’s chin as much as in today’s post. Give him a bit for me, please.

  2. sigh….and we wait another 2 weeks to hear more on Max’s condition. He is such a sweet poochie. And, I love the pix of you and Max.
    Continuing to hope and pray for any tidbit of good news on his condition.

  3. Like I did for Jelly (how she is doing with her pain?), my best wishes to Maximus. I am really sad hearing that med’s words from you.

    I have a 5 years old female pug (Sora) and in your situation, we would be really desperated, due that here there aren’t pet medical insurances… So, think, you are really luky to have his company, you are enjoying (more now) his affection and, fortunately, you have that treatment for him.

    About kindness, you are not crazy, I see Sora learning new habits from other neigboors dogs (and vice versa), so it’s not strange that the others realize that Maximus is in pain and ill and become more “educated” with him.

    About meals, ¿have you tried to give him some pizza? Sora, since it’s become ready at microwave and smell it, don’t leave me until she has her part. Also she becames crazy for dry-cured Spanish ham (jamon serrano). Have you tried?.

    I see Maximus more enthusiastic on last photos at clinic. On the other photos he was really knocked down.

    Sora and me send you both a really big hug.

  4. I’m sorry the radiation treatments didn’t go better. Fingers crossed and positive thoughts the anti-cancer vaccine gets to work.

  5. Beautiful photos, Joe. Discouraging to hear the news, but personally, I’m still hoping for a miracle. Please give him many kisses from all of us. 🙂

    Regarding the ban on pets in cabin, I agree with you and think that pet-friendly flights would be an excellent alternative. However, I sincerely doubt the airlines would even consider doing it. Both of my daughter’s dogs have survived the trip from Orlando to London and back to Orlando, but I freaked when I was told the pet compartment below was left dark to “keep animals calm”. WTF? Virgin Atlantic has been good to them and I can’t really complain, but I do know both dogs were very frightened when they landed and it took some doing to get them to relax again. I can only imagine how terrified they were on takeoff and landing. It’s not cheap to fly them (over $2,000 one way to fly Gumbo the last time, and then more fees after he landed), so why couldn’t they have a flight even once a month where people could accompany their pets in cabin? Like you, I think the airlines would be able to make money. Then again, can you imagine a cabin full of cats and dogs? 🙂 Actually, that sounds a lot better than some of the people I’ve had sitting next to me on flights! Have a good night!

  6. Gather all his records and when back in Vancouver find another good animal hospital and see what they have to say. I would absolutely pay for a seat on the plane for my dog. People with severe allergies should take appropriate precausions every time they step out the front door, not to mention when getting on a crowded airplane. Dogs are not luggage. What is wrong with people? Give Maximus a hug for me.

  7. I read your words and see the pictures of Maximus and my heart just feels like it is breaking a little bit more with each paragraph, each picture. I wish you both the very best for whatever time together you have. I Hope that it is a very long time. Hugs to you and Akemi and each precious little one.

    I cannot imagine shipping my Molly (shih tzu/lasso mix) in a cargo hold and I won’t. I would pay for a seat for her though if that is the only option. I think you’re right, many owners, if they could afford to do so would too. Cargo holds…gawd, no.

  8. Could a dog be any cuter? Please give Max a scratch behind the ears from me. Sadly, your description of Max’s condition is eerily familiar to how my father is describing his current experience with cancer. He recently underwent his last radiation treatment.

  9. Aww, poor Maximus. Give him (another) hug for me. Here’s hoping for the best regardless.

    I agree about the logic of the allergies – there are tons of things that people are allergic to. How can they cover them all?

  10. I continue to hope Max’s immune system will kick in and he will be one of the <25%. You both look, understandably, sad.

    I do think that you are right when you say the other dogs are acting differently towards him. You know they can sense things we cannot, and are very sensitive with members of their pack. It wouldn't surprise me if they aren't reacting deeply to your distress too. Big hugs for all of you!

    While I am sorry things with the show in TO didn't work out, I am glad you will all be able to go back to Vancouver and be home. I just wish there was something I could do to help.


  11. Got tears in my eyes as I read your blog. Poor (((((Maximus))))). 🙁 I hope and pray that things get better.

    As for those Canadian Medical people…what do they know. How heartless can they be? 🙁 Dogs are family members…loved ones. How can any good-hearted person put their loved one (dog) in cargo? They would be scared and depressed…and lonesome. Just the thought breaks my heart. Hope you can find a better way to transport dogs safely and more friendly. May be fly out from JFK or something.

  12. Hugs all around, especially for Joe and Maximus. I hope the vaccine starts working its magic: wake up you killer T-cells and start attacking that tumor!

    By the way, Joe, humans do have limits on radiation therapy. It varies depending on the area of the body that is targeted for therapy.

  13. Does Maximus have to go thru the scanner at the airport, that would stress me out if I were any of the pups. He has been radiated enough. Give him a hug from me, can’t get too many of those. Hope Lawren has the house ship-shape for you. Not long now, are you packed yet? What ever happened to the shipments of books you used to get? More time to read after you get settled back in. Nice pictures, thanks for sharing.

  14. ah, puppy….

    We flew my son’s cat once. In the cabin. Some woman started complaining loudly about her allergies. I opened my purse and offered her a choice of over the counter and prescription allergy pills. Then pulled out my epi pen and dug out even more allergy med bottles. She demanded a new seat and some kid in 1st class traded her under the condition that he got to hold the cat.

    Yeah, people with severe allergies – like me – are responsible for their own health.

  15. Poor Max — wishing him and everyone the best! At least he gets to go back home to the West Coast soon.
    As for the flying, maybe the airlines could offer designated “pet-friendly” flights. But then I suppose there would still be problems for people with serious allergies if planes weren’t cleaned properly. Maybe “pet-friendly aircraft” might work better.
    – KB

  16. Sending ear scratches and belly rubs to Maximus, and a pat on the head to you and Akemi. Safe travels home for you all.

  17. Keep hanging in there Maximus, we have our fingers, toes and paws crossed for you. 🙂

  18. Wow, Sorry to hear the tumor shrank then returned to its original size. That’s too bad. Hope the vaccine yields some results.

    Can’t stand it when people wear perfume on flights… or anywhere else in public. Gives me a headache. Happened to me twice recently… on a bus in Costa Rica and a flight from Atlanta to LA. Yikes!

  19. Please ask your vet to give Maximum ciproheptadine. Cheap antihistamine that works, no joke, miracles on appetite. My dogs continued to eat through chemo, cancer and other illnesses thanks to it.
    The short answer on radiation and chemo differences for dogs and people is that they consider horrible suffering okay to save a human, with life being worth whatever they do. With animals, they balance suffering as opposed to possible outcomes and err on the side of the animal not suffering. Some vets will treat even more aggressively, but I think it is well, not the best course. Sounds like you have great vets. I just hope the vaccine kicks in and buys you more time with your buddy.

    re: Do you have a friend, relative, or unfortunate worker who trumps Seamen? <<
    Don't get me started. My daughter went to school with a poor child named Special Edwards. Her parents should be horse whipped. I don't know his FIRST name, lol, but my sister's gynecologist's name was Dr. Pugh (pronounced pew).

  20. I particularly love the “zen” picture – Max’s expression is priceless. They say that attitude is half the battle in cancer, at least in humans. I wonder if that’s true in animals too? If so, it would appear that Maximus has a great one.

    The fires here in Texas are really becoming serious. Among my coworkers, several teachers’ homes are threatened in north San Antonio currently. Even air quality has been affected particularly for those allergy-sensitive.

  21. Coucou!…oui je sais une revenante lol! Désolé maus je n’ai pas eu internet durant un semaine et ensuite j’ai commencé mes cours d”infographie qui prennent beaucoup de temps, mais je ne vous oublie pas ♥

    Maximus est vraiment adorable jespere que ça va aller pour lui…so cute sur la pic où vous êtes tout les deux!!

    Gros bisous,
    Bon week end!

  22. {{{hug}}} Maximus. Keep eating and getting better, sweetie. Here’s to the vaccine doing its thing.

    I think the CMA calling for a ban of pets in cabin on airplanes is crazy talk. If pressurized cargo holds were 100% safe, there would be seats in there for human passengers. Allergies? I am allergic to plant pollen, and animal dander. I’m surrounded by plants, and live with two cats. Living a miracle? Nah. Taking an antihistamine. I suffer from allergy attacks severe enough to be the cause of most of my near death experiences, so I do understand the concern. But, where is the good sense? Will the CMA banish those who live with pets to the cargo hold, since they usually have allergens stuck to their clothing? We are constantly surrounded by allergens. Banning pets will not stop allergens from being inside an airplane cabin.

    Like daubermaus said, “Yeah, people with severe allergies – like me – are responsible for their own health.” @daubermaus, well stated. Your offering that person an epi-pen is hilarious.

  23. “fingers crossed” for Max! Sending more belly rubs to him.

    I’d reconsider the RV idea someone had last time. Or spend the mula and charter a plane. Go back in style! (and with less stress)

  24. Dear old Max. I enjoyed the pictures. In the shot with you and Max, you’re starting to look the same. 😉

    It’s great that you’re helping Max put up such a good fight for life. Not many of us have the resources and steadiness to do what you’re doing. You are doing your best, and you have my best wishes.

    I am amazed at dogs. They react to illness so different from humans. So accepting and patient. Thanks for sharing your dogs’ lives with us.

  25. Joe, they dont currently charge you for “seats” for your dogs? When I got married and we moved my wife’s cat home with us, American Airlines charged us $50 for allowing the cat carrier under our seat. In addition, they had placed us in the emergency exit row (no pets allowed) and then proceeded to separate my wife and I after yelling at me for politely asking if there were anyway we could sit together on our honeymoon flight… This was right before the tragic events of 9/11, I can only imagine how bad it is now that they have been given real authority.

  26. I support your idea of pet-friendly flights. Maybe some folks could buy seats for their pets and others who can’t afford an extra seat could keep them in carry-on kennels.

    Service dogs get to fly in a seat, I think. And, I saw an Animal Planet show with a woman who danced with her dog at dog shows and she had him in a seat next to her when flying. So, it’s not unprecedented.

    I do think it should be separate though. I’m allergic to cats, and some dogs. I take anti-histamines everyday and I use a second anti-histamine when my allergies break through. I also carry an epi-pen, although (knock on wood) I haven’t had an episode bad enough to use one for a few years. I look out for myself and I expect respectful cooperation from others, and reasonable accommodation from businesses and public institutions.

    Even though I would probably live through an allergic attack on a plane, I would rather not have to. Even moderate attacks not requiring an emergency room visit, can last a few hours after the allergen is removed. And, for me, the fatigue may last a day or more after that. Also, the pet owner would probably not want to be sitting next to someone like me who is sneezing, snuffling, scratching at hives and irritable. Not a good way to start a business trip or a vacation.

    Also, I wish people would exercise common sense and courtesy and not wear fragrances in crowded places where others can’t easily get away. Some of us are allergic and some of us just say yuck.

  27. I’m still crying over the demise of my last Siberian who was such a lady! I know where you are at. I am so sorry to hear about Maximus and can only can only empathize, commiserate and wish you strength to get through this very trying time for you, Akemi, Maximus and the rest of the pug family. –seems so cliche to say it, but it happens to be true – what more can one say. Enjoy your time together.

  28. Consistency, compassion, understanding… that is the problem.

    On the one hand, it seems that the airline industry are hysterical over human sneezes (being facetious, not trite) by insisting that animals are carried in the cargo hold – to the point of not being concerned about it being cold enough for water bowls to freeze.

    On the other hand, the transport ruling agency in some states, forbids a trucker to keep his truck running to keep the tin can that he calls home either warm in the winter or cold in the summer because of pollution/noise concerns…. unless there’s an animal inside that tin can… Logic??… Common sense…. Nope!

  29. Many hugs for Max, and also to Joe and Akemi; caregivers need lots of hugs too. Loved the pic of Maximus in the garden, he looks very distinguished (and adorable.)

    If the overhead air vents provided fresh air as opposed to recycled air then it wouldn’t be a problem. I’m more concerned with the human germs that thrive in that recycled air.

    I know you had a bad experience with that private jet co., but maybe airlne charter services might be more helpful. Only Delta, AirTran and Air Canada were offering charter jet service; couldn’t find any more associated with major airlines:

  30. ZenMax pic incredible, wishing good karma to brave Maximus & family.

    #namegame – father of a former co-worker was named Harry Beavers, & she wasn’t very jocular regarding his moniker. Not a detective though…

    #fantasyfootball Joe you better try the waiver or fa wire and dump PM. I had to sling Colston overboard-broken collar bone.

    #superdonor I am happy to report that I was fortunate enough to donate blood 4 times this year.

    I will be moving to Oklahoma Thanksgiving week to support my son during his terrible & still undiagnosed stomach troubles. Prayers & support appreciated…


  31. Hi Joe:

    Don’t expect the worst yet with Maximus. He may be one of the ones that surprises everyone. Even if he isn’t, he has had a great life. The thought that my cats were happy and enjoyed their life with me has helped me immensely when one of them passes away.

    I hope this short story from Readers Digest cheers you a little: “One of the women I work with has a long haired Chihuahua named Beetlejuice. One day she bought him a stuffed turtle to replace his stuffed pig, which had seen better days. Beetlejuice cried and kept throwing himself at the can until she retrieved the turtle and gave it back to him. The next day she came downstairs and saw that all his toys were gone. He had spent the night hiding them from her so she wouldn’t throw them out.” – Donna Reid, Whitby


  32. There are limits to the number of radiation treatments for humans, they are just not as strict as those for animals. This is because of the side effects of treatment. The more treatments you have, the more damage you do to the skin. I have recently had radiation for breast cancer, on my chest and under my arm and by the end of it my skin was so burnt and blistered I could hardly move my arm. It was terribly painful. Not something you would want to put Maximus through.
    I have my fingers crossed that the vaccine starts working soon.

  33. @Kerry… how is the BC going for you? Alright? Hang in there, you can beat it. I was quite lucky mine was stage one, and that I could have brachytherapy instead of traditional radiation, means I can have regular radiation on that side if I have a recurrence later.

    Many more healing thoughts for Max. And a few positive ones for you too, Joe.

    I brought three cats and a dog back from Japan. The flight was delayed a day, after we sat on the tarmac for hours and hours. Hotel made the animals stay in the luggage room. I stole poached salmon off the breakfast buffet for them all, and found the big sand-filled ashtrays made terrific kitty litter boxes. Oh yes, that’s the flight which sent ALL our luggage to Belgium. And we had to drive cross-country with the cats because of the missed connections which would have had our kitties on two less flights. ARGH. One poor kitty shredded all the paper in the bottom of his carrier so he could hide. Jake, the Japanese bobtail, was cool and collected cat through the whole thing, but then, Jake was a tiny god in fur. I miss him so much. He just dropped dead one day while playing with my husband, boom, fell over dead at age 15. Only time I have seen my husband cry.

  34. @maggiemayday… BC was stage 2/3. I had a left side masectomy and lymphnode clearance. It’s just over a year since diagnosis and I’ve just finished all my treatments. I am pleased to say that there is no sign of the cancer having spread and my outcome is very positive. I’m lucky to live in Canberra, Australia, as we have a world class oncology unit here.

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